Enter: the ‘square meal rule.’ A term coined by Christopher Payne and Rob Barnett, co-authors of The Economists’ Diet.
The idea is that applying a few simple principles to your diet – like equilibrium and budgeting - is the key to establishing healthy eating habits and long-term weight loss.
This means committing to eating only three meals a day - one “square meal” that’s moderate in portion size and calories (i.e. anything that’s not an “indulgence”), and two lighter meals such as “a bowl of cereal, a salad or a sandwich.”
“For instance, [‘the square meal’] is not four slices of pizza, a large bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, or a Sunday roast with all the trimmings,” Payne told The Independent.
“Both of us were obese because we were entirely unaware that eating three square meals a day was far too much food. Abundance in the form of vast quantities of cheap calorie-heavy food, facilitated us eating too much.”
By cutting back on the amount of food they were chowing down on, Payne and Barnett began to recognise the “impact that abundance was having” on their respective waistlines.
“It’s about realising that if you lose 30 per cent of your weight, you’ll probably have to eat roughly 30 per cent less food for the rest of your life,” Payne explained.
But if you think this eating regime sounds like a whole lotta leafy greens and starving yourself silly, you’d be sorely mistaken. Payne and Barnett are all for cheat days… as long as you “budget” for it.
“Any diet that forces you to permanently give up your favourite foods isn’t going to work,” Payne said. “Apart from leaving you miserable, it ignores the patently obvious fact that there are plenty of times during the year when you’re going to overeat and over-indulge.”
In short: if you’re keen on treating yourself, Payne suggests eating less for the rest of the day.
“It’s exactly the same principle of saving up ahead of a big expenditure or cutting back spending after splashing out.”
Consider us convinced.